Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate on missile defence for the second time this week. I am reminded of the old statement: it seems like déjà vu all over again. It was just two days ago that we had this debate, but I recognize the Bloc's right to put this important topic to the House once again.
As for the Bloc member who just spoke, I do not know if he is being disingenuous. I recognize that English is probably not his first language, but my colleague from the Conservative Party took up this point and I would like to pursue it briefly.
A pacifist, as I think the term is commonly understood, is someone who will not resort to the use of physical violence, even in self-defence. Perhaps the most famous example one could think of is Mahatma Gandhi.
If my colleague opposite was serious, and I assume he was--I listened to his comments--he surely cannot mean that Canada is now or ever has been a pacifist country under that understanding of the word.
My colleague from the Conservative Party, the defence critic, spoke very well and very eloquently in pointing out that Canada lost thousands of lives in the first world war, the second world war and the Korean war specifically because we are not a pacifist country. The defence minister is exactly correct in saying that. Any student of Canadian history knows that Canada, when pushed to the wall, as a matter of last resort has used and will continue to use military intervention to defend our own national self-interest or to come to the defence of other helpless people.
We have a proud military history in this country. I would recommend, with all due respect to the hon. member opposite who made those comments, that he perhaps may want to talk to the family of General Georges Vanier or he may want to consult with the very famous military group from his province, the Van Doos.
We are not a pacifist country. It just boggles my mind to hear the Minister of National Defence attacked for pointing out our proud military history. The member also attacked the defence minister for being a hawk, for being somebody who is anxious to go to war. That could not be further from the truth.
With all due respect, let me say this to my hon. colleague. I am sure that the Bloc defence critic, for whom I have great respect, will well recognize that it has been a long time since a backbench member of Parliament was appointed Minister of National Defence and will recognize that no member is more capable and more prepared to take up the job than my hon. colleague, the Minister of National Defence. He is not a hawk, but he understands the basic lesson of history, which is all too often forgotten.
That lesson, of course, is that if a country or a nation really wants peace, then it had better be prepared, as a last resort and if necessary, to go to war. When that lesson has not been followed, we have had the most calamitous violence and wars we have ever experienced throughout our history as a global people.
I just think the member was inaccurate and frankly far too harsh on the Minister of National Defence. There is no one in this country who is anxious to go to war, but we must, as a sensible people, be prepared to defend ourselves if necessary. That is what this discussion is all about.
After all, we are looking at the possibility of joining our Norad partner, the United States of America, in a defensive missile system for North America. We are in negotiations to get the facts from the United States to see whether or not it is in Canada's self-interest as a country to go into this defensive ballistic missile defence system.
As for making a decision of that import, this motion says we should just say no right now. With all due respect to the Bloc motion, how can we take a decision on something of such national importance as the defence of this country and this continent without having more facts? We have to at least participate in the negotiations to get all the facts we can from the United States. That is what we are engaged in.
Then and only then, and after full debate--and this is the second one this week in the House--and after further debate and consultation with the Canadian people, when the government feels the time is right, it will take a decision on whether to participate or not participate.
Based on what I know I would think we are probably likely to participate, but that decision has not been made. It is certainly wrong to preclude making the decision at the right time by throwing up our hands now and saying, “We just say no, we do not want the facts”. Let me tell members why that would be so dangerous and so wrong.
I had the honour to be recently elected chair of the defence committee and I am looking forward to taking up that assignment again. I had that assignment in 1999 and 2000. The defence committee held an extensive set of hearings on the question of national missile defence. In the course of that, we heard from many witnesses right across the spectrum. What became very clear in the course of those hearings was this simple fact. The United States of America has irrevocably made a decision that it will create a system of national missile defence, with Canada's participation or without Canada's participation.
I would submit that this leaves two possibilities for Canada. Either we agree to participate with the United States or we do not. This is our defence partner, as it has been since the second world war. This is the country that we have a defence organization with, a bilateral treaty--